You're listening to episode three of our podcast series on Childcare and School Transitions. In this episode, we're going to talk about when to talk about this, when to let them know that it's coming, and what to do if some anxiety comes up around it. Alright, let's dive in.
Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell.
Now, all of us operate differently, where some of us do really well with a heads up. Like when my child was starting childcare, I reached out to the provider for like, start date, enrollment forms, all that information months ahead of time. It feels better for me to be like, alright, that's off my to do list. I filled out all the forms, all those ducks are in a row, and then I can focus in on other things as we get closer. For other folks, if you sent those enrollment forms months in advance, they would just sit somewhere until about a week out when they would be filled out. Neither of these is the right way to go. And same with our kids. Everybody just operates differently. For me, I feel more comfortable if I have that heads up, if I can think about it and know what's coming. For other folks, too much of a heads up means you're up at 3:00a.m. with anxiety thinking about it.
First, I want you to think about who is my child? And this might be different for different children. Do they do best with more of a heads up, time to ask their questions and figure out what things might look like? Or do they do best with less of a heads up? Will they be feeling really anxious with all of the unknown if they have too much lead up time? Once you know that answer, it's going to be the key for what to do next. So if you have a kid who does best with more lead up time, then I would give them a couple of weeks of knowing what's coming and trying to fill in the blanks of who their teacher is going to be or getting those pictures together of their classroom. Maybe you'd even be able to do like a drive by at the school and see it. Maybe your school offers a tour where you can walk through and check it out inside. If you have a child who would get anxious with all that information before they're going there, then I would give them one week notice. I would say, "All right, next week on Monday, you're going to go to a new school. You're not going to go to Rashda's house anymore. You're going to go to a new school. You're going to meet some new people, and it's going to be a new space. I have some pictures. Would you like to see them?" And then I'm going to show them. Here's what the new school looks like. Here's the name of the new school. Here's the name of your new teachers. This is what's going to happen, "When we go in in the morning, kind of like we do at Rashda's, we're going to hang up your bag and we'll put your lunchbox away. And here in this room, we can read a book or color together. And I'll set the timer on my phone so that you know when I'm going to go. And when the timer beeps, I'll give you a snuggle. And then I'm going to go to work." Laying out exactly what to expect with one week's notice. And then I'm going to turn to them and ask, do you have any questions? They might say no. And then I'm going to let them know if that makes sense. That's a lot of information. You can ask me any time to look at the pictures, or you can ask me questions anytime you want, and I'm happy to talk about it. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time for your brain to think of all the new things.
Pause. Here we can do something tangible, like a paper chain countdown. Remember those things? Those strips of paper that were like loops and they loop together? Let's make a one week paper chain countdown where every day they take off one of the paper chains and they can count how many days left until they start school. It's also okay if they're feeling a little anxious leading up to it, what they're saying.
So our three biggest anxiety triggers are health, safety, and the unknown. And so for going to school, we're really hitting two of them, safety and the unknown. Am I going to be safe there? And then what can I expect? It makes sense to feel anxious about those things, and they might not start to feel more comforted until they're in a new routine. What you can do to support them with that is to validate. "Yeah, it makes sense to feel uncomfortable when you don't know what's going to happen. If your body starts to feel out of control or you're not feeling safe. What helps you feel safe? For me, it helps if I take some deep breaths and I remind myself that I am safe here. It helps for me if I have a one song dance party and shake my body. It helps for me if I draw a picture to draw all the things that are in my head." We can give them some examples of what to do when they're starting to feel anxious so that they have an outlet for it.
Also, pro tip. That's going to be something they take with them for the rest of their lives because they're going to feel anxious, and trying to make the anxiety go away isn't going to serve them down the road when it pops up again and again and again. What we can do is give them tools for coming back into their whole brain. How do you help your body feel safe? Is really saying, how do I help you access your whole brain again? When they're in an anxious state, they're in their primal brain, and we get to help them regain access to that whole brain and find their sense of calm. So once you figure out who is my child, then you'll know when to tell them about it and how using those visual aides will be really key here. Tomorrow we're going to chat about your experience, and ways to take care of your nervous system while you're supporting the tiny humans.
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